Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Tories Win in Canada

The Canadian parlimentary election results are not as bad as some polls were indicating they would be a week or two ago. Just as was the case in the last election, the prospect of Stephen Harper and his band of Blue Tories and socons running the country caused many voters who were perhaps disgusted with the Liberals to hold their noses and vote Liberal anyway or to stay home. The difference this time was that there weren't enough voters who held their noses and voted Liberal as there were during the last national election.

To say that Paul Martin and the Liberals deserved to be voted out is perhaps stating the obvious. The financial scandals that have surfaced over the past couple of years are evidence of a party that remained in power so long that they became (more) lazy and arrogant. If Jean Chrétien were still leading the Liberals he might have toughed-out a victory, but Paul Martin was punching above his weight in this election. He is no Chrétien, and I actually mean that as a compliment. Chrétien's greatest talent was for holding onto power, and if one is pursuing no particular agenda beyond rewarding one's cronies such a talent becomes rather dangerous.

My biggest disappointment in this election is that the New Democratic Party (NDP) received over seventeen percent of the votes cast but that they won only nine percent of the seats in Parliament. The fact that they have ten more seats in the new Parliament than they had in the previous Parliament is great; the fact that the first-past-the-post electoral system used in Canada (and in the U.S. and the U.K.) allows the Bloc Quebecois to win over sixteen percent of the seats in Parliament with only ten percent of the votes is obscene. Canada does not deserve any more criticism for this system than the U.S. does, but it is the Canadian election I am writing about today. Proportional representation is fundamentally more democratic and representative than the systems our two countries use.

So congratulations to Jack Layton and the NDP. This is the best day for the NDP since Bob Rae was elected Premier of Ontario in 1990.

We can hope that Stephen Harper and the Tories meant it when they backed away from some of their more socially conservative positions during the campaign. I fear that Harper will end up being more conservative than he attempted to portray himself in order to get elected.

As is the case with George W. Bush here in the States, Harper makes me nostalgic for the conservatives of my youth; Joe Clark seems so much more appealing now than he did back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And I must admit that Joe endeared himself to me when he came out last year and said "I do think it would be dangerous to have a leader with the kind of mentality Mr. Harper has." Let's hope he was overstating the case.

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